Hailing from Birmingham England by way of the West Indies, Steel Pulse is the first reggae band to perform at this (or any) American president's inaugural celebration. As trivial as Steel Pulse's rank is among ultra-roots purists who kneel before the holy trinity of Bob Marley, Culture and Burning Spear, the outfit started out with the lofty intention of most rastas: burning down Babylon, then salting the ashes. In the good old Thatcher-baiting days, Pulse would dress like vicars, coach footmen and powder-wigged aristocrats, sharing eclectic bills with U.K. rabble-rousers like the Clash, the Stranglers, Generation X and the Police. Along the way, however, the protest-minded vision of frontman David Hines branched into watered-down crossover territory such as synth-soaked party anthems. From its 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution to the Grammy-garnering Babylon the Bandit, the ever-changing lineup has dabbled in jazz, Latin grooves, contemporary dancehall lite, and even a killer Jah-slanted take on Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl." Now touring in support of its latest disc, African Holocaust, Steel Pulse seems to have rediscovered its roots all over again.
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